Sunday, July 23, 2017

Three Sisters Wilderness: Lucky Lake

South Sister
View of Lucky Lake as the trail intersects the lake.
 Lucky Lake is a beautiful mountain lake with great views of South Sister and Broken Top mountains, and it's easy to get to. In fact, the hike is just over a mile, and relatively flat the entire way. I hiked in on a weekday, looking for a quick getaway, and hopefully some fishing. The lake isn't as popular as many Three Sisters Wilderness destinations despite its beauty. Because of this (or maybe the hordes of mosquitoes) I had the lake to myself.

Camp, pre bug net.
 Campsites are concentrated on the south side of the lake. I chose the flattest spot with the best views and pitched my tarp. I was using for the first time a bug net/tarp combination. The net stops at the ground and does not have a floor. I was a bit nervous about its effectiveness pitching it in the midst of clouds of mosquitoes. But it worked great. I slept soundly, and no flying blood-suckers got in.

Why is my rod on the ground and not in my hand?
 Fishing didn't go so well. Lucky Lake's waters are crystal clear, and I didn't see a single fish of any size either in the water near shore or rising to the surface in deeper parts of the lake. I doubted that any fish were even in the lake despite what I had read online. Regardless, I spent most of the day circling the lake looking for fish and throwing out a fly absent sign of any. It basically became a day-long casting practice session. Lucky Lake isn't a very easy lake to fly fish anyway. Beaches are basically non-existent. In most places, trees grow right to the water's edge. Backcasting is nearly impossible without wading.

 Later that night I heard something big splashing in the water. From the water's edge near my camp I could see a big brown animal frolicking in the water across the lake. I couldn't tell what it was, and I kicked myself for not bringing my binoculars.

A serene morning on the lake.
After a good night's sleep, I awoke to a very quiet, peaceful lake. The water was completely still and the mountains glowed, spotlighted in the rising sun's rays. It's these moments that draw me to the woods. It's these moments that I sit up at night at home in bed thinking about.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Gear Review: NEMO Blaze 2

The Dirt:

NEMO Blaze 2 

What is it? Two person ultralight backpacking tent

Double Walled: Yes

Freestanding: No

Comes with: Tent, fly, stakes and guyline.

Weight: 2 Ibs. (minimum trail weight)

Size: Floor 85"x 50". Height 40". Area 30 square feet.

Materials: Mesh. Floor 15D ripstop sil/PU Nylon. Fly and vestibule 10D sil/PU.

The NEMO Blaze 2 is a spacious, two person, double-walled, ultralight tent that separates itself from the pack with sheer livability. Unlike almost all other two person double-walled tents (that I know of) at 2 pounds or below, the Blaze 2 has two doors and a true dome design, bucking the current trend for tents in this category like the ever popular Big Agnes Fly Creek 2 with the single door teardrop shape. The Blaze 2 is a true ultralight double-doored dome.

Three Sisters
In Three Sisters Wilderness
NEMO accomplished this light weight dome very simply. They eliminated one pole of the classic 2-cross pole design. Yes, the Blaze has only one structural pole that runs from one corner to its opposite, and as such is NOT freestanding. They also added a small center pole that stretches the width of the tent and connects the top of both doors. This allows for vertical side walls and gives the Blaze its unparalleled livability. It also makes for a goofy looking pitch. As you can see from the photo below, the corners absent pole-to-ground contact are raised off the ground pretty significantly. I've  pitched this tent dozens of times and so far have not found a solution, however, I have not seen any drawback created by it. Lastly, the other big change from the run-of-the-mill is the shortened rainfly, which relies on the higher bathtub floor on both ends to keep out rain.

Without the fly. Note the corners,

All these innovations may seem daunting to the traditionalist, but after over a year of regular use I'm impressed. It packs so small. I don't feel guilty taking it on solo trips when the expected weather scares me away from my tarp. When I'm backpacking with my girlfriend, who doesn't do minimalist, the weight is a non-issue. We don't have to split anything up, and she's happy in camp. She's happy with the inside space and she loves having her own door. Let's face it, most 2-person backpacking tents are small, but the ultralight versions are coffins. Some ultralight 2-person tents have no business calling their tent "two person". The NEMO Blaze is not one of those tents. It's made for two, no doubt.

The Blaze can handle the weather too. I've had it in wind on Mt. Lemon, and rain in the Oregon Badlands. It's sturdy and watertight. My only real gripe is the color. I know that sounds weird but hear me out. Bright yellow attracts bees! No joke. It's like they think it's a giant California Poppy or something. If bees are around, they will come when you pitch this tent. Not that big of a deal unless you're allergic, or tenting in Africanized bee territory, like the Sanoron Desert... But then again, if you're in the Sanoron Desert, why are you pitching the fly anyway?

Oregon Badlands
In the Badlands
Overall, I'm super stoked on the Blaze 2. If you want a comfortable, ultralight tent for two, this is your tent. It's got all the conveniences of heavier tents in such a small, light package. I would recommend it particularly if you are actually backpacking with a partner and don't want to trade comfort for weight. It's also perfect for the backpacker who only wants one tent for everything. It's roomy enough for two but light enough for one. It's sturdy and dependable, and the quality is typical NEMO top-notch. The biggest drawback is that you might have to sell a kidney to pay for one.